Prostate and Testicular Cancers

Current Projects
Christopher E. Barbieri, MD, PhD

Prostate cancer is a clinically variable disease – some patients do well, while others do very poorly – and recent studies have shown clear molecular subtypes of prostate cancer that may explain this variability. Some subtypes of prostate cancer have underlying defects in repairing their DNA, making them potentially sensitive to therapies that exploit this deficiency. Dr. Barbieri [MetLife Foundation Clinical Investigator] is a surgeon scientist whose overall goal is to translate our understanding of the molecular basis of prostate cancer into near term benefits for patients. He will investigate the response to novel therapies for prostate cancer in patients undergoing surgical therapy for early stage disease, and define the genomic alterations that predict which cancers will be sensitive to these agents. Defining the response and the predictors of new agents in early, untreated prostate cancer will change the paradigm of how we treat men with the disease, allowing a precision medicine approach.

Project title: "Subtype-specific modes of clinical and molecular progression in prostate cancer"
Institution: Weill Cornell Medicine
Award Program: Clinical Investigator
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Lewis C. Cantley, PhD
Cancer Type: Prostate
Research Area: Pharmacogenomics and Biomarkers
Philip A. Romero, PhD

Dr. Romero is a biomedical engineer whose expertise is in the area of microfluidics. He proposes to develop new technology that can be used to detect circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in the bloodstream. CTCs are cells that have detached from a solid primary tumor and entered into the bloodstream; they can go on to colonize distant sites and form metastases. Detecting CTCs is an enormous challenge, as the cells are present at an ultra-low abundance (1 out of billions of blood cells). His approach is to develop a highly specific system, a “DNA-based logic circuit,” to detect and profile CTCs, which could ultimately be applied for cancer diagnosis, prognosis indication, and measurement of a patient’s response to treatment.

Project title: "Digital circulating tumor cell detection using scalable molecular logic"
Institution: University of Wisconsin, Madison
Award Program: Innovator
Cancer Type: Breast, Colorectal, Lung, Prostate, Sarcoma
Research Area: Biomedical Engineering
Jonathan E. Shoag, MD

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men in the United States. Remarkably, work over the past decade has demonstrated that even the worst prostate cancers are dependent on the same signaling pathways that govern normal prostate behavior. Dr. Shoag’s objective is to identify drugs that have activity against the normal prostate and can be used to understand and treat prostate cancer. Dr. Shoag will apply novel statistical and machine learning approaches on large scale clinical data to discover new therapies and pathways important in prostate cancer. He will then test these therapies in genetically engineered and patient-derived prostate cancer models. Identifying active drugs against prostate cancer that are already FDA-approved or have been previously studied in clinical trials for other cancers can aid in understanding prostate cancer biology and can rapidly benefit patients with advanced disease.

Project title: "Harnessing clinical data to identify new prostate cancer therapeutics"
Institution: Weill Cornell Medicine
Award Program: Physician-Scientist
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Christopher E. Barbieri, MD, PhD
Cancer Type: Prostate
Research Area: Drug Discovery
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